Friday, September 4, 2009

A Velvet Worm!

What better way to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Burgess Shale's discovery than by finding one the coolest surviving relatives of the Cambrian explosion? I found the onychophoran pictured to the right while searching under rocks for dwarf geckos in the Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic. The Burgess Shale's onychophoran representative (a.k.a. Hallucigenia) may not be as bizarre as Conway Morris or Gould once thought, but this group has no shortage of weird and wonderful habits. One of these can be seen in the form of the sticky strands projecting from this animal's mouth, which are used to subdue prey and repel predators (or the prodding finger of a photographer's assitant). Onycophorans are also known from Dominican amber (1, 2).


Liam Revell said...

Cool, Rich. Here's a picture of a velvet worm from a recent trip to Vieques. It was among many found in herp pitfall traps by Jose Luis Herrera, a herpetologist who is doing reptile and amphibian surveys in the former Navy areas down there. Photo by Luke M.

Roberto Keller said...

Keep it! It is now more meaningful, since it is the living, direct ancestor of caterpillars according to an article just published in PNAS!!

(On a more serious note, I really envy you. In all my years crawling through the leaf-litter looking for ants, I am yet to find one)

Dan Warren said...

Quick, Rich! Put it in a jar with a butterfly and see if they reproduce! Play some Barry White if you have to.

220mya said...

Just as a quick note, you may want to remove the "?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0" from the URL for reference 1. Otherwise, most of us who click on the link get a "Session Cookie Error" page from Wiley.

Glor said...

Anybody know how may species of onycophorans there are in the Caribbean? Or what species this is?

Thanks for the tip, hopefully the link is fixed now.